Southern California Facing "Perfect Drought"


Southern California may be in danger of succumbing to a "perfect drought" if actions aren't taken soon to help remedy the situation, according to a recent article in Guardian Unlimited. Leading climatologists, environmentalists and city planners have warned that the use of water may need to be severely curtailed in light of the drought-like conditions prompted by the lowest amount of rainfall (only 8.15 cm in the year ending June 30) since 1877.

With no rain forecast before September and supplies from the Sierra Nevada mountains, which typically provide Los Angeles with up to 50% of its water, running low, strict measures such as mandatory hosepipe bans and restrictions on car washing may soon be in the offing. These cutbacks come in the face of rising demand for scarce water supplies as a result of the tremendous population growth witnessed in Southern California (2-4 times higher than the national average) over the past 5 decades."I call it the dry incendiary summer of 2007," said Bill Patzert, a NASA climatologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Mother nature is converging with human nature. With population growth and the decline in the water there are the elements in the equation which you could call the perfect drought." The growing influence of global warming, some have argued, means that elevated temperatures and a lack of rainfall may soon become the norm.

To make any headway in their effort to prompt a rethink in a population used to consuming large amounts of water, experts agree that enacting planning measures to force developers to consider its use will be key. "It's disgusting that Los Angeles parks and golf courses are being irrigated with potable water," said David Nahai, the president of the board of Los Angeles' water and power commissioners. "We have to re-educate people about living here."

In addition, land use and flood control measures need to be revised to make the city more sustainable and less dependent on water traveling hundreds of miles through aqueducts and pipelines, according to Melanie Winter of the LA-based River Project. Implementing such reforms would go a long way towards ensuring that the city have a dependable, constant supply of water. "We spend $1 billion to import water and $500,000 to throw local [rain] water into the ocean. In 30 years we may be able to provide 65% of our drinking water locally rather than 15%," she explained.

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Scarce water and population boom leads California to 'perfect drought'

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